Correct posture is just as important for belly dancing as it is any other form of dance. The right posture will not only create the illusion that you look longer and leaner onstage, but will enable a greater range of motion in your hips, make your isolations look cleaner and more distinct, and prevent knee and back pain. Because of the many movements of the pelvis and torso, it’s imperative that your posture is correct and safe so that you protect your lower back.
These basic rules for posture apply to any type of belly dancing, so let’s start from the bottom up:
Stand with your feet about hip-width apart, or just under your shoulders. Your toes should be facing forward, and you should have an even weight distribution on both feet, from the balls to the heels.
Keep your knees soft and pliable, they will function as shock absorbers, and the knees are also the place where many of the movements of the hips are initiated. Never lock your knees back, and don’t force them into a squat either. Aim for your knees to feel a little springy. Keep the glutes and quads relaxed.
For safe belly dance posture, your pelvis needs to be in a neutral position. This is achieved by pulling your tailbone down ever so slightly towards the floor, lengthening the spine. Let your pelvic bone lift just a little bit towards your navel, which will draw your tailbone downwards. It is important not to let the back arch, and also not to over-tuck your pelvis, tilting it too far forward. The neutral position will protect your spine.
Once you have achieved a neutral pelvis, make sure the muscles in your abdomen are engaged. Lift your ribcage up, using your abs and the muscles in your back to keep this area lifted. Your ribcage should be positioned very slightly forward from your hips. The muscles in your upper back should feel engaged, but not clenched. Your chest should be open.
Keep your shoulders level, and pulled ever so slightly back and down. The back of your neck will be elongated, and your chin will be level with the floor.
This is safe and correct posture for belly dance. Notice that your center of gravity is fairly low, that the lower body is flexible, soft and almost bouncy, and that your upper body is elegant and uplifted.
Now that your body is aligned, extend your arms to the sides, with your hands on the same plane as the lower portion of your ribcage. Your arms should have energy in them, but not tension.
The elbows will be rotated ever so slightly towards the back of the room, so that your arms appear curved and rounded but not and sharply bent.
The wrists will be flat but have some play in them, the palms of your hands will be facing downwards, with the fingers arranged in a relaxed, aesthetically pleasing position.
For beginners, this entire set of mechanics may seem like an awful lot to keep track of… and it is, but over time, your posture will become instinctual. In class, your instructor should be monitoring your posture and reminding you to keep it correct.
If you have been studying for a while and are practicing on your own, continually check all these posture points and body alignment in the mirror. Initially, it is most important to remember to keep the knees soft and the pelvis neutral.
In the recent past, many dancers were taught to perform with knees that were overly bent, and an over-tucked pelvis- this position is not safe for your body!
Another thing to remember is that most people hold a vast amount of tension in their shoulders, so even if you have been dancing for a while, you may have to remind yourself over and over to stop hunching and to bring your shoulders down, which will also improve your arm carriage and your body lines in general.
Your hands may need a lot of work- most beginner’s hands do- and Lord knows mine did at first... but this is more a stylistic issue and much less critical than keeping your body alignment safe and neutral…pretty hands will come with time and practice!
Above all, your goal should be to keep your entire body aligned and ready to dance in the safest manner, protecting yourself from potential injury!
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